Minnesota may often be thought of as a state with quality public education, but many may not realize that it has one of the largest achievement gaps in the country. CBS Minnesota explains only 16% of African American high school seniors are college ready, compared to 61% of whites. In addition, Minnesota’s Native and Latino students have the lowest graduates in the nation. Literacy rates play a role in these large achievement gaps.
According to 2013 Census gathered information, Minnesota spends $11,089 per pupil, but the facts show that minority students are not achieving like whites are. The majority of states decreased per pupil spending 2008-2013, Minnesota did not. The Pioneer Press reported late last October that the achievement gap is worsening by “nearly every measure.”
The state government has proven ineffective at solving this educational crisis, but one young woman from Hopkins has made it her mission to make a difference in the lives of low income individuals and persons of color. Maria Keller is the Founder and CEO of Read Indeed, a nonprofit organization focused on distributing books to teachers, schools, nonprofits, and families.
In an interview with Alpha News, Keller explains what led to the establishment of her nonprofit organization. At the age of 8 Keller set out with the goal of collecting and distributing 1 million books by the time she turned 18. Now 15 years old, Keller can’t believe the support received in those early days. “Almost immediately, so many people began to support my efforts by donating books. They were arriving by the tens of thousands,” she asserted.
Read Indeed is operated with Keller acting as CEO, along with a Board of Directors, headed up by her mother who is the organization’s executive director. With the help of the Board of Directors, Keller’s organization has collected and distributed roughly 1.8 million books, and she is only 15 years old. Her next goal is to reach 2 million books collected and distributed.
Keller says roughly 80 percent of the books that Read Indeed gathers are given as gifts to Minnesota children, explaining, “we have a huge need in our state to serve low income kids who are facing literacy issues.” Keller says she has an understanding of both the achievement gap and the education problems Minnesota is facing, and has shown that she is determined to combat these issues.
In addition to collecting and distributing books, Keller has worked diligently to engage other youth (ages 12-17) in her organization’s mission. According to Read Indeed’s website, 13 individuals serve on the organization’s Youth Advisory Council, where each individual builds leadership, researching and fundraising skills.
Keller mentions that in the future she hopes to be able to hire paid staff and to form partnerships with corporations and other nonprofits to maximize her impact on Minnesota and other areas her organization reaches out to. Keller asserts that age has no bearing on making a difference, saying, “I’ve learned that no matter how young or old you are, you can make a difference and you just need to reach out to others who may be able to help with your vision in the business world.”